A Local Guide to Dubrovnik, Croatia Part 1 – History of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, Croatia. You might have heard about it. A small Croatian town, “the jewel of Adriatic” that has turned into a popular tourist destination over the recent years? Or maybe King’s Landing sounds more familiar?
It is a place where I was born and raised in, and the place that I still live in. That is why I decided to create this new series on my blog “A Local Guide to Dubrovnik, Croatia”.
What is different from the rest of the travel bloggers is that this guide is local and that being said, I’ll share with you honest and real information. I’ll share with you myths, hidden gems and some bad sides of it as well.
For this first part of the series, we’ll talk about – history. Because as you know; without history there would be no future. And Dubrovnik really stands after that quote. After all, it is a historic tourist destination.
Every Tuesday from now on, I will publish a new part. Make sure to stay tuned by subscribing to my blog HERE and receiving the notification of the next part in your e-mail.

The Origins

The Republic of Ragusa was founded in 1358 by Slavs. But the area of the town was inhabited much before, in the 7th century. Around that time it is said that first Dubrovnik Walls were built, but after a few disasters over the centuries including many sieges and the infamous earthquake in 1667, the walls that we see today date from 12-17th century.
The inhabitants were Roman people who escaped the destroying of Epidaurum (today Cavtat), a great Roman town 25 kilometers south of Dubrovnik.
They settled on the small island called Lausa and hid from the Slavs and Barbarians who were attacking that area of the Roman Empire at the time.
Next to the village of the Romans, were Croatian villages. In the beginning, the two peoples didn’t like each other, but over time they got together, and in the 12th century they joined their villages. They filling the channel that previously divided the two places and created the famous long street.
The long street became known as Stradun and the united villages called themselves “Dubrovnik” meaning united nations.
Of course, that’s all just a theory. There’s also another one which could be even truer. It claims that Dubrovnik dates from the times of Ancient Greece. Thanks to the archeological founds of artifacts and the speculation that Dubrovnik was the perfect settlement for the Greek sailors, this theory might be true.

Orlando’s pillar in front of the Church of Saint Blaise

Independent Dubrovnik and Venetian Reign

Until 1050, Dubrovnik only covered the area between the walls. Then, Croatian king Stephen I gave Dubrovnik a widening. Ragusa spread 16 km north to today’s town called Zaton and other parts of land near Dubrovnik (Port Gruž, Župa Dubrovačka, Šumet etc.). 

But, there’s more – it became an owner of Elaphiti islands including Lokrum, Koločep and Šipan, and other near ones.

This fact you have to know! Dubrovnik was the first to have a sewerage system while great cities like London and Paris did it hundreds of years later.

Another interesting fact is that in 1317, Dubrovnik had one of the oldest pharmacies in the world called “Male Braće” (literal meaning: Little Brothers).The problem was that in the early 13th century, Venetians became a strong marketing force on the Mediterranean. Because of their power, from 1205 to 1358, they occupied Dubrovnik.

During Venetians reign, Dubrovnik wasn’t as weak as it seemed. It got islands of Lastovo and Mljet, as well as Ston and Pelješac peninsula under their ownership.

Even though on paper Dubrovnik seemed as an occupied state, it wasn’t. It was freer than the rest. All princes and institutions of authority were picked by Dubrovnik people. All they had to do was to pay a yearly tribute to the country.

Everything was solved when Venetia lost all islands and coast on the other side of the Adriatic with the signing of a “Zadar armistice” with Croatian-Hungarian king Ludwig I.

Dubrovnik Cathedral

Ottomans Power and the Golden Ages

But that’s not all for the Dubrovnik Republic. In 1408, they have fallen under the power of Ottomans and thankfully, all they had to do was to pay a yearly tribute of 12,500 ducats to the Sultan and supply Ottoman colonies.
And as usual, they kept all rights to themselves. They had the right to be in relations with any other state and make agreements with them. And their ships sailed under Dubrovnik flags.
But did you know that during this time, the Dubrovnik Republic became the world’s first nation to abolish slavery? Yes, in 1416. While England did it in the 17th and the US in the 19th century.
In the 15th century, Republic spread to the areas of Cavtat (Epidaurus) and Konavle.
By the time of the next two centuries, this small Aristocratic country had its own marketing colonies all over the Ottoman Empire; in Constantinople, Solun, Belgrade, Bukuresht, Sarajevo and other parts of Balkan peninsula. They also had them in Italy (Florence, Ancona, Venetia…), Egypt (Alexandria and Cairo), and in the Middle East (Smyrna and Bursa).
This gave a huge privilege to the Ottomans since the main path of the Florence-Bursa route was crossing in Dubrovnik.
The result? Dubrovnik was the main threat to Venetians next to big powers like England, Spain, and Genova.

Dubrovnik belfry

The End of the Republic

But every great state has to come to an end, and with Napoleon’s rise in the early 1800’s and the weakness of Turkish power, Dubrovnik became an easy target. It surrendered to 1200 French soldiers and their commander on May 27, 1806.

On January 31, 1808, The Republic of Ragusa ceases to exist when the general Marmot dissolved the Senate, Dubrovnik government and abolished The Republic. From 1808 to 1814 Dubrovnik was included in the Napoleon’s Kingdom of Italy and became one of the Illyrian provinces. In 1815, it became a part of the Habsburg Monarchy and was never independent again.


Today, Dubrovnik is a part of Croatia and the greatest touristic destination in the region.

This little state made a huge impact on the world and yet a lot of it is unknown. The moral of the story is; always have money. Well, joke aside, Dubrovnik people were very smart and they understood their worth. They didn’t let greater forces to destroy them and kept their state alive for five centuries.

In the second part of the series, we’ll get to the present more. I’ll show you the best places to visit in Dubrovnik including food, art, drinks, theatre, and others.

The next part is coming up next Tuesday! In the meantime, there will be other posts in fashion, beauty, and lifestyle.

What do you think about this article? It’s different than the rest for sure, but give me some feedback so I can know.

Are you visiting Dubrovnik anytime soon? Have you been there?

Tell me in the comments! In the meantime, follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Bloglovin‘. You can also like my Facebook page here.

xx Nora


6 thoughts on “A Local Guide to Dubrovnik, Croatia Part 1 – History of Dubrovnik

  1. Such good information. I would be happy to visit this amazing place. Thanks for sharing ♥️ ♥️ By any chance you are interested on doing collaborations, you can check out the collaborations portal of Phlanx.com and connect with amazing brands!Xoxo,Tiffany


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.